The second I hear that another wrestler… excuse me, WWE Superstar… is going to be fronting another new movie, the eyes automatically react by rolling, and my mind heads straight for that “Seriously, why?” place it’s been known to go to when news spreads of something that, on the surface, sounds like a terrible idea. Let’s face it… the model of forcing wrestlers to the forefront of movies hasn’t exactly worked out well over the years since Hulk Hogan battled Zeus in NO HOLDS BARRED (although I still have a special place in my heart for that flick… sue me… I was 9 when it came out, and Hulkamania was running wild). The strategy has put WWE Studios in a very dicey spot right now that they’ve been trying to recover from as, outside of their own fan community, it’s tough to get the average mainstream movie-goer to sit down in front of a movie that stars The Big Show or Kane. The studio has been trying to utilize their own talent in mostly bit and supporting roles in their projects now, so as not to distract the viewer with “Hey, isn’t that [Insert wrestler’s name here]?” and THE CALL was a big step in the right direction as far as I’m concerned. DEAD MAN DOWN tried to accomplish the same thing, and, while in its Superstar involvement, it worked, it wasn’t a very good film that many people went to see.
So when I was presented with the opportunity to see 12 ROUNDS 2: RELOADED, not only a sequel to the okay action flick which starred WWE Champion John Cena, but a direct-to-DVD/Blu-ray follow-up, this time with Randy Orton in the lead role, every bone in my body told me that I should take the two hours I’d spend watching this and do something else. But I said, “What the hell…?” and went with it, willing to spend an afternoon giving 12 ROUNDS 2 a fair shot, and you know what…? My body was a bit off. I’m not saying 12 ROUNDS 2 is a fantastic flick, not by any means. It’s predictable and doesn’t stray much from conventions we’ve seen done much better elsewhere… plus, for an action-driven movie, its villain and his motivations are incredibly weak sauce, which really hurt the movie in establishing any sort of consequences for their hero. But it held my interest and entertained me a bit, and, furthermore, I was incredibly surprised by how well Randy Orton was able to command the screen when he was involved, which is quite a bit, making me curious to see what he might be capable of if given the ball for another feature film down the line, one that’s a little bit better overall.
His character Nick Malloy is a far departure from either the Legend Killer or Viper personas we’ve come to know throughout Orton’s in-ring career, with flashes of both personality and humor that we don’t often come to associate with the WWE Superstar. And, while I’ll admit to wanting to see Orton drop someone with an RKO in the middle of a fight sequence, I never once got the sense that I was watching a wrestler on-screen, which may be the best compliment I can pay to Orton’s work here. Orton was able to separate himself from his other profession for 12 ROUNDS 2, which allowed me to get into the film and become interested in the journey Nick Malloy would make during the course of the film. It wasn’t me watching Randy Orton trying to play Nick Malloy… it was Nick Malloy, who, once the credits began to roll, happened to be played by Randy Orton.
Therefore, I was quite interested in talking to Randy Orton about his preparation for the film and the difference in approach to acting from what he’s used to in the ring. Besides talking about 12 ROUNDS 2: RELOADED, I was able to get candid with Randy concerning his past feud with Mick Foley, his short-lived first reign as WWE Championship and some of the struggles faced by second- and third-generation talent trying to make a name for themselves in the wrestling industry. Enjoy.
Randy Orton – Hey, Billy.
The Infamous Billy The Kidd – Hey, Randy, how are you doing this morning?
Randy Orton – Yeah, pretty good, man. You?
The Kidd – Can’t complain.
Randy Orton – Cool, cool, cool.
The Kidd – I know we’re short on time, so let me get into the movie first, because then I want to talk a little bit of wrestling while we have the chance, too. So heading into 12 ROUNDS 2, you were slotted to do THE MARINE sequel first, and then things didn’t work out and you kind of moved into this. In transitioning from the ring to on screen, I want to ask your different approach to performance. When you’re in the ring, you have a character that you’re already performing, you have a persona that you’re already playing, but for a lot of it you’re working live, as opposed to off a script where you can have multiple takes. So was that kind of a departure for you, and can you talk a little bit about the different approach to making these two different characters come to life?
Randy Orton – Sure, sure. Well, you know for the past… over a decade, now, I’ve been working on the WWE character, and he’s evolved and changed into this person that I am now. To be honest it’s just me times ten out there, and it makes it that much easier. Doing the movie… I had done a little something before with Ed Harris and Amy Madigan in THAT’S WHAT I AM, the WWE film I had done prior, but that was nothing compared to this. I was practically in every scene of 12 ROUNDS 2. Going into this, I was very nervous, but after a week of rehearsal, after meeting the other men and women that I was going to be working with, I started to get more comfortable. On the first day of shooting, the director was awesome. He knew I’d probably be a little more comfortable with the physical stuff, so he had us film a fight scene the very first night. We spent probably six hours on that one fight scene. He didn’t have me jump right in and have the kissing scenes of the movie… He didn’t shoot those first, you know? [laughs] He didn’t do the hard stuff first. He did the easy stuff. He got to know me, I got to know him, and he kinda gave me tips… Really the director helped me out so much. Because I wasn’t ready to star in a feature film. I had about twenty hours of acting class under my belt that we had crammed in the week before when I flew up to Vancouver… So yeah I was nervous! When we started, it was like, “You know, it’s digital, it’s not like they’re running out of film. We can do as many takes as we want and it’s not going to cost an extra dime.” Boom. So yeah, take after take… Sometimes you wouldn’t need take after take. It would be like Monday Night Raw, and you’d hit it in one take, but you’d still want another one. So you just got used to doing take after take, and if you knew that if you flubbed a line or messed up a take, you just keep going, because… The editing process… It’s magical. They can change that movie into anything they want to change it into. It could be completely different from the script by the time it hits the theatres or it’s out on DVD. It’s amazing, the process. But yes. Very nervous at first. Very different from being in the ring.
The Kidd – Well the same thing applies when you’re talking about action. When you’re going into a film, you have fight choreography, and hitting your mark and kind of the space of the frame… So is that also a very different experience for you, because in the ring, yeah, you can plan some stuff in advance, but a lot of it is playing off the feel of the crowd, and how the match is building and the psychology of it… So in terms of that, was that also something you had to come to grips with and get used to?
Randy Orton – Yeah, definitely. It was all, like you said, you wouldn’t just go out and feel the crowd and live in the moment. You can’t do that. You’ve got about 30 people watching you, but it’s not an audience, it’s not your fans. It’s the cameramen, the gaffers, this guy, that guy. Props are over there, waiting to jump up at any second because something got scratched and they need to polish it up. It’s crazy. But it’s also a lot more… I’d almost be willing to say less stressful. Monday Night Raw, and Friday Night Smackdown… that can get a little bit stressful. That live element to that show on Monday nights or out on pay-per-view, it really puts a lot of tension in the air. It usually makes for a couple of pretty decent hours of TV, but on the movie set, everything is a lot more… calm, I’ve found. Yeah, you’ve gotta hit your mark, and you’ve gotta be there, and when they want you there, you’ve gotta be there. I’m not the most punctual person in the world and that when that director wanted me there, i was there 15 minutes early. But it was a great experience for it. It was the only movie I ever did, I took away a lot, and I’ll never forget that experience.
The Kidd – Let me ask you about early in your in-ring career. For me, the Legend Killer stuff was some of your best work, especially in building an establishing this character, and that’s kind of where you set yourself up as this top-flight heel, and I think the Foley stuff really had a lot to do with it. So can you talk a little bit about working with Mick and the interaction with him, and the ideas he may have brought to the table as far as helping Randy Orton become a player in the industry?
Randy Orton – Yeah, sure, sure… Mick had a huge and very intricate part… It’s funny you bring this up because we were just in Edmonton… Alberta, Canada… And that is where I faced Mick in that legendary Backlash anything-goes match where I landed in thumbtacks, and he was… his upper arm looked like hamburger meat… we beat the crap out of each other. Probably the favorite match of my career, and the one that propelled me into the fans eyes as far as, “Okay, this kid can go. He’s willing to get dirty.” I landed on thumbtacks for those people in Edmonton, and it was with Mick. I remember in that program, from the beginning to the end, I noticed a huge change in how the fans perceived me. Being out there with Mick Foley, doing what I did to Mick Foley… It just propelled me. I was never going to be anything less than a top guy in the fans eyes after what I had done to Mick Foley. I was really proud of that. Mick knows that’s my favorite match to this date, and he takes a lot of pride in that as well.
The Kidd – The other thing that really stood out to me, as you continued to build, especially in the fans eyes, it’s kind of a turning point, or at least a stick kind of in your career. It was kind of the evolution turn, where you’re 24 years old, you win the title, it seems like the WWE is going to push somebody new into the main event, and have this fresh program with somebody completely different. And then the Evolution turn happened and you dropped the belt a month later to Triple H, and it seemed like the fans had this kind of collective sigh, as in, “Here we go again, they’re cutting the legs off this guy.” So you’re privy to the storylines as they go in advance, but was there a part of you that was like, “Hey, maybe this isn’t good long term for this character if we’ve worked this long to establish him”?
Randy Orton – Well, that was a long time ago. Close to a decade ago. But I remember back then, and I felt, with that title… Man. I was 24, youngest champ in history. There’s a reason they don’t come that young and that’s because you can’t take the responsibility. And I’m not saying I couldn’t take it, but I think that, for where I was in my career, talent-wise, maturity level, all that stuff, I probably wasn’t ready. I think there were probably a lot of variables that went into the decision behind me becoming the youngest world heavyweight champion in history. I wouldn’t doubt that the fella who had that title before me leaving the company had something to do with me taking that title off of him… If you know who I’m talking about. But he’s back now and everything’s peachy. Yeah, but I don’t think that I was ready… and even me saying that now, that hesitation was probably there back then, and they wanted to give me a taste to see what it was like, and they had to put that title back in a veteran’s hands so that they could run with it… You know, it’s Triple H, so immediately the internet wrestling community jumps on his butt, and, “He’s holding him down,” “He’s not giving him a chance…” But you know, you look at Triple H, love him or hate him, he goes out there and he knows what he’s doing and he does a very good job at it. It’s just… the fact that he’s married to the Boss’ daughter, and that he’s working up there in the office, it gives people bullets to use against him. It gives them ammo to go, “Oh, he’s back there working backstage just to put his name on the list.” “He can make sure he’s in the main event.” “He can close the pay-per-view with Brock Lesnar in a cage. No… He deserves it. It’s easy for him to take the flack, because of the position he’s in, but he’s worked hard for that position, so I think he deserves every amount of his success that he’s had thus far.
The Kidd – I wanted to ask you, because you have a really unique perspective on second and third generation superstars coming in the industry, and there’s a lot of them that are coming up right now. You’re seeing it now with Joe Hennig and Curtis Axel. Is it kind of a no-win situation to have your legacy attached to somebody else who is established while also trying to create something new for yourself? Is it difficult to break out of that shadow to do something new? Or is there this temptation to go, “Let’s attach them to who they came from and try to build them that way.” You were able to break out of that, but can you see the difficulty in other personalities trying to then become something new on their own?
Randy Orton – Well yeah, you’ve got Dusty Rhodes and his son Cody… Million Dollar Man and his son Ted, and I know those two pretty well. Joe Hennig, I know him pretty well as well, but I haven’t worked with him in the regard of the other two I just spoke about… But yeah it’s hard. If you look at those guys’ dads… My father, he was in the business. He was never Hulk Hogan. He was always there making Hulk Hogan look good, you can betcha, but as far as living up to a father who was a ten time world champion and a Royal Rumble winner, that wasn’t the case for me. People remember my father and respect him, but I didn’t think like I had to be Cowboy Bob Orton’s son. That wasn’t how I came in. Luckily they went with my name. They didn’t try to call me Michael McGillicutty or whatever. That was brutal. They tried to go the alternate way with Joe, but they went almost too far on the other side of the spectrum. They gave him the funny name, and went completely away from his father and everything. I think, in his case, his father… Rest in peace, of course… He’s gone. And his name and his memory, you know? To be named Curtis Axel out of respect for his father and his grandfather, Larry “The Axe,” like that? I think that’s awesome. I think that if anyone can make Curtis make it, it’s going to be Paul Heyman. The company is behind him right now. So these next few weeks will dictate where Curtis heads in this company. I think it’ll be up to the top. I really do.